13th Aug 2022

EU court backs UK patient on refund for treatment abroad

The EU's top court has backed an argument that European patients should be refunded for their health treatment abroad if it was undertaken due to long waiting lists in their home country.

In a pre-judgement opinion issued on Thursday (15 December), the advocate-general for the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice argued that EU citizens can receive certain medical services across the union, and the refund for their costs abroad "may not be refused if the treatment is one which is normally provided and cannot be granted without undue delay in the home member state".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"The sickness insurance fund is then obliged to reimburse the person for the costs incurred", the advocate added.

On average, the court follows the advice of its advocates in an estimated 80 percent of cases, so it is quite likely the judges will later endorse his opinion.

Thursday's case involves a complaint from Yvonne Watts, a 74-year-old British woman with serious arthritis, who went to France for a hip operation after she was told she would have to wait up to four months to get the treatment in Britain.

The home insurance authorities had refused to authorise Mrs Watt's operation abroad, and the UK High Court later rejected her application for the refund of her costs worth around €6,000 on the basis that there was no "undue delay" in her case.

But the advocate general Leendert Adrie Geelhoed disagreed.

He stated that the British National Health Service (NHS) does not have "a clearly defined procedure" for considering applications for treatment abroad, meaning patients have restricted possibilities to seek treatment outside the system.

"It therefore constitutes a restriction of their freedom to receive services and is contrary to the EC Treaty", said Mr Geelhoed.

Pension rights for transsexuals

In separate legal advice announced on Thursday, an advocate general argued that the refusal to grant a pension to a male-to female transsexual at the same time as a woman is contrary to EU laws.

This case was also initiated by a UK citizen, Sarah Margaret Richards, who was born a male but later diagnosed with gender dysphoria, and so underwent gender changing surgery.

As she applied for a retirement pension in 2002 - at her 60th birthday - her request was turned down because she was still considered male, and men retire at 65 in Britain.

But the advocate stated that "it is contrary to Community law for a Member State to refuse to grant a retirement pension before the age of 65 to a male-to-female transsexual where that person would have been entitled to a pension at the age of 60 and she been regarded as a woman as a matter of national law".

Draghi's grip on power finally unravels

Italy looked set to lose its highly-respected prime minister Mario Draghi on Thursday, after his attempt to relaunch his grand coalition government ended with right-wing parties joining the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) in deserting him.

Italy back in chaos, as Draghi quits over 5-Star snub

Italy was plunged into fresh political turmoil on Thursday as prime minister Mario Draghi announced his resignation after a key ally within his grand coalition government boycotted a parliamentary vote.

MEP accused of 'disrespecting' female moderator

Some 100 representatives of civil society organisations, including Transparency International EU and Oxfam, accuse German Green MEP Reinhard Bütikofer of disrespecting a moderator because she was a woman of colour and want him reprimanded.


Albania's post-communist dream has lessons for Ukraine

Comparisons between post-communist Albania and current-day Ukraine are fascinating — and make many pertinent parallels. Ukrainians have a similar determination to belong to "the rest of Europe" as Albanians.


Finally, the victims of Utøya got a memorial

A legal battle between locals on the one hand and the state and the labour youth organisation on the other side postponed the inception of the memorial in remembrance of the victims of Anders Behring Breivik.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Defying Russian bombs, Ukraine football starts 2022 season
  2. Sweden to extradite man wanted by Turkey
  3. EU must beware Beijing's new charm offensive
  4. Forest fire near Bordeaux forces over 10,000 to flee
  5. Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties
  6. Russian coal embargo kicks in, as EU energy bills surge
  7. Only Western unity can stop Iran hostage-diplomacy
  8. Kosovo PM warns of renewed conflict with Serbia

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us